Guest Editorial: Fashion for the modern radiologist

By C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR
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Dr. Phillips is a Professor in the Departments of Radiology, Neurosurgery, and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and the Director of the Division of Neuroradiology in the Department of Radiology, University of Virginia Health Systems, Charlottesville, VA. He is also a member of the editorial board of this journal.

The "flip-flop" flap at the White House has me bewildered. What is appropriate professional attire? Well, for college athletes, I would argue that flip-flops are reasonable and a step up from bare feet. I saw the picture on almost every major news service and I think those were pretty fashionable flip-flops. As far as I'm concerned, those shoes were just right for a very brief photo-op with a president who routinely wears cowboy hats.

Okay, now what is proper professional attire for the radiologist? Rule number one: Conceal tattoos and most piercings. Lord, I'm in trouble already since I have an earring. Do I need to balance that with Armani or Brooks Brothers? Brooks Brothers, likely, since I obviously wouldn't want to appear too ostentatious. Do I really need a tie or collared shirt?

I propose the following fashion ideas for our specialty. All radiologists should wear pants and a shirt, except women radiologists, who should wear…a shirt and pants. How about wearing your white coat, if you can find it and if it has your current institution's name? Not ordinarily necessary, but perhaps when meeting with attorneys. I suggest keeping your stethoscope from medical school. Hang it on a hook in your office and plop it in your pocket when you have to meet with hospital administration, but never wear it around your neck, as someone may expect you to know which end goes in your ears. Don't let it get too dusty or rusty. Socks are optional and not recommended during the summer months. Wear your film badge proudly on your collar or on a pocket, not at the belt line. Display your beeper, as beeping and flashing objects are the number-one fashion accessories. If you're meeting with other clinical staff or administrators, make sure the beeper goes off at least several times during the session to emphasize your clinical importance, and keep the cell phone at the ready to consult on those "critical" procedures.

Scrubs work well as a total wardrobe solution. Even if you don't do anything that requires you to actually wear scrubs, it will keep 'em guessing. A few drops of dried blood on a pants leg is always a nice clinical touch. But please change scrubs from time to time before they start incubating new life forms.

If you are pushing barium, a lumberjack outfit, army fatigues with boots, or a river angler get-up emphasizes how well you integrate form and function. This is a good opportunity to wear shoe covers or shoes that will never leave the department.

Wear a jacket and tie only when you do not intend to perform any radiology--it's just total overkill. If you wear a jacket or suit and tie, it must be assumed that you are making a video, meeting with senior management, or have a funeral to attend later in the day. No other excuse is acceptable.

At some institutions, they sell nice sport shirts with the hospital logo imprinted on them. These are always appropriate in any setting, as they serve as advertising and show everyone in the hospital that you have team spirit! Specialty shirts that are dedicated to radiology are the ultimate in this fashion line. As a second best, a shirt with the local university or regional sports team logo will do. Shirts with your brother's paint store logo should probably be avoided.

Remember, if you're ever uncertain about your wardrobe decisions, just keep the reading room lights low so no one will see your flip-flops.

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Guest Editorial: Fashion for the modern radiologist.  Appl Radiol. 

September 12, 2005
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